On Goldberg: Not surprisingly, this is perhaps one of the more engaging and edge-of-the-seat kind of reading I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Throughout your critique, I see your love and respect for the man while taking him—kindly—behind the woodshed, not for a beating—the kind which I most certainly would have given—but for a thorough talkin’ to. Yours was a pastor’s rebuke, Doug, and a very kind one interlaced utterly with firmness. I’m left with a simple, “Wow…well done, sir.”
Malachi, thanks for the kind words.
I am with you both in loving Jonah, his intellect and his incisive writing style, and also in having felt all too often that he is mistletoe and doesn’t recognize the tree he’s situated in, or even whether he is actually in a tree. That’s why it’s so hard for him to celebrate Christmas.
Jim, right. He is immersed in something he really appreciates, but because he is immersed in it, he doesn’t feel all that wet.
You are behind the curve. The Boy Scouts no longer exist.
Jeff, yes. I was talking about groups that gave people meaning. Now the Scouts just offer extra meaning.
The entire notion of a “Miracle” presupposes a higher power, does it not? If you want to take God out of the equation, do you not also need to equate life in the USA with life in the Gulag—just to be consistent?
Melody, exactly right. Miracles exhibit intelligent design.
Re: The Goldberg Write-up “But there is, as we bilingual people sometimes like to say, an el problemo.” This is simultaneously the best and worst Spanglish I have ever read. Congradulations :) Anyway, thanks for the review. I haven’t read the book yet. I generally appreciate Goldberg but all the no-God talk surrounding this book (I subscribe to his podcast) has kind-of soured me toward it. I appreciated Liberal Fascism. But I’ll probably end up skipping the Suicide of the West (ern Commentator). Or at least waiting ‘til winter.
Nathan, muy thankee.
Re. book review of Suicide of the West. Your statement, “The way you demonstrate that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights is through preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you want inalienable rights in the 1770s, you needed to have had a Great Awakening in the 1740s. Just like we desperately need an awakening now.” is in the running for the quote of the year. Six months to go . . .
John, many thanks.
Goldberg has addressed this whole “there is no God in this book” idea in his own podcast. I’m too lazy to find the exact quotation. (Hope you listen to “The Remnant”—for the most part it’s great.) His argument is that he was trying to get people to see how all this here capitalism works down on the ground without dragging religion into it. Probably not all that great of an idea, though. Anyway, I so agree with you that he’s just the greatest. My heart leaps every Friday when I see his G-File land in my inbox.
Debi, yes. But as I know you recognize, men don’t let capitalism work down here on the ground if there is no God. They are too busy trying to become God themselves. And that is how we get control economies.
The Snare of Socialism
Can you please define what you mean by “socialism?” I am assuming you mean any form of distributive wealth, but there’s an obvious difference between Venezuela and Sweden and America (all of which practice socialism at some level). 2. Many supporters of socialism are wealthy (most?) and would argue that they are supporting this cause on behalf of the poor. They can hardly be envious of the rich considering they would stand to pay higher taxes and lose money in a more socialistic economy. 3. Somewhat off-topic: But it seems to me that the most ardent defenders of slavery are also the most ardent voices against taxation and for liberty and freedom. Is there a disjunction here? I think most people believe that any form of slavery is a far worse affront to freedom and liberty than a high marginal tax rate (by far). 4. Relatedly: How is it that some forms of slavery are good “and in agreement with freedom and liberty” but all forms of socialism are sinful? How would you define sinful/lawful taxation? Sinful and lawful/slavery? These answers may be in your books, which I haven’t read. Thank you
Joe, by socialism I mean redistributive policies concerning wealth. Taxation ought to be for services rendered, and those services ought to be legitimate functions of government, biblically defined. 2. Wealthy people can be consumed by envy also, and frequently are. 3. It is not quite accurate to speak about “defenders of slavery.” Given slavery (as in the first century), what is the best way of getting rid of it? I would take a similar approach (reformation, not revolution) in getting rid of socialism—as great a social evil as slavery. In fact it is as great a social evil as slavery because it is slavery. 4. The goal is to extend liberty, biblically defined, as far as we can, as rapidly as we can. This means gospel first, baptizing the nations, and then teaching them obedience to the words of Christ.
Re: Suicidal Socialism. Thanks for pointing out envy. I’ve noted a sense of entitlement recently in one of my young sons and this post recalls to me things he has said that show envy within his heart as well. I don’t think the two things are far apart. A tough reminder as Father’s Day approaches and I am reminded once again that he gets his sinful nature from me. The poor little guy wants to be just like me when he grows up. I want him to be so much more. I would encourage all the dads reading to try to point “in” at sin not “out” at it. And then fight it. For Father’s Day, ask your kids for forgiveness.
Nathan, yes. Politics begins at home.
Doc Wilson—great article. I agree as far as you go. I would add one more thing: In addition to the envious masses who would rather see wealth destroyed than be owned by someone else, there is another key ingredient to “the great revolution,” often found in the leadership—the Messianic impulse. There really are intelligent, passionate, sometimes even well-meaning people who think something akin to a literal Heaven-on-earth is possible as long as they can be in charge and get everyone to do what they say. This is a religious idea that stretches to their ideological core, which is why they simply cannot stand to have anyone in their midst opposing their pursuit of limitless power. They really think they’re leading the charge toward the salvation of man. Is it any coincidence that the famous German word “Heil,” famous for “Heil Hitler” and often mistranslated as meaning “Hail” or “Victory,” actually translates to “Salvation”? Thanks,
Austin, yes. If you haven’t already read it, I would recommend Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed.
Brother, I have been heartened by your wisdom and fearlessness in this day when apostasy seems to be the trajectory of far too many churches that forget that God-in-Trinity is Love and that real love warns of mortal danger (Ezekiel 3:18-19). Here is another article that examines the false “Spiritual Friendship” premise behind Revoice.
Jim, thanks so much.
Was Puritan Piety Precious?
How does that mystical strain of historical Puritanism, represented by men like Samuel Rutherford and Isaac Ambrose, figure into your cautions against overly feminine expressions of devotion to Christ? Does the fact that they lived in a more manly age account for the legitimacy in their plumbing Song of Solomon for their own personal prayer language? Queequeg and Ishmael casually share a bed in New Bedford under the shared assumption that they were proper men, where we, in our age, would share no such assumption upon meeting someone in a crowded inn in New England. In other words, is the mystical, nearly romantic, language Rutherford prays in available to us only after performing a haka or two? Or were the Puritan mystics, themselves, a little out of line? Thanks,
Philip, I think they were protected more than we are because of the prevailing sexual wisdom that surrounded them. But I still think such personal expressions of piety are unwise, even for them. I would recommend Leon Podles’ book The Church Impotent. This particular error runs back to Bernard of Clairvaux.
White and Wilson
Pastor Wilson, I can’t find it, but I seem to remember you mentioning that some new debate between you and James White regarding textual issues would be forthcoming. This was probably within the last six months. Am I imagining this? Real or imagined, I have been looking forward to it.
Will, no, you were not imagining that. The debate did occur, and is available here.
Kevin Williamson uses nearly identical language describing the un-metaphorical murder-suicides in the incel movement: link
Casuistry and Slavery
Your article waving the Gadsden flag has brought back some Christian ethics questions I had been meaning to ask you about for some time. There are few men, if any, whose ideals and understanding of the Scriptures that I respect more than yours, so your thoughts on this matter mean a great deal to me. In situations of cruelty in slavery, when does it become right for the ones enslaved to fight with force to the point of taking a life and no longer tolerating the injustice? I recognize the Bible provides scenarios where individuals should be willing to take life without assuming guilt (executioner of the state, soldier, dad against a home invader trying to harm his family). But what about situations where the “law” and even society at large would not support your resistance to the cruelty or defend your basic human rights issued by God? I particularly have in mind instances of slave masters raping slaves, selling off the children of their slaves, and even the process of forcefully being enslaved by cruel masters. I’d like to think I would have no problem taking the life of someone stop them kidnapping my child, raping my wife, or stealing me and unjustly making me live a life of forced labor. Even if I were to lose the battle, I’d choose death over the alternative. Give me liberty or death. What if my slave master likes to hand my wife over to his buddies for pleasure when he hosts them? What if I’m responsible for giving him his morning shave? Am I free (am I righteous) to lay into his jugular with the razor to protect my wife? It seems to me that as her husband I’m assigned to be her earthly protector and would therefore be obligated to put a stop to it. I know I would certainly want to in that circumstance. What if he is going to “sell” my young children to someone else and thus separate them from their parents for a life time? Am I free (righteous) to incite an uprising and go to war with these wicked “owners?” What if my owner just likes whipping me for pleasure? In situations of slavery, when does it become “OK” for one person to tell another, “No, I’m not going to let you physically harm me without just cause and I will resist you unto your own death if you continue to try” regardless of what anybody, governing or not, thinks or says? Additionally, how obligated are you to resist to the point of the violator’s death to stop someone from committing these acts against someone who is defenseless? I’m in agreement that if the ceasing of chattel slavery can be achieved through restoring proper law and order from the top down without a war unto death, then that should definitely be pursued. But how much of the violations described above do you tolerate in the mean time? And how long do you tolerate it? What’s the threshold for those suffering and for those witnessing the suffering? When are you to take a stance of self-defense or family defense in that sort of circumstance? I’ve heard you speak on the ungodliness of vigilante justice and I am in agreement. You had mentioned how just about every Hollywood action movie is built around vigilante justice and not due process and coercion remaining in the hands of the magistrate. I had never really noticed that pattern in movies before until you pointed it out, but you’re absolutely right and now it’s the only thing I can see when I watch a movie that involves a guy with a gun. Would the above scenarios of resistance to cruelty from a slave master be classified as vigilante justice? I am somewhat familiar with the doctrine of the lesser magistrate and the godliness of the lesser magistrate resisting to the point of war with a higher magistrate and the godliness of rendering your services to that lesser magistrate. But what about scenarios where the only God ordained authority structure for miles around in favor of you not suffering the types of personal and familial violations previously described is self-government?
Rope, when you are describing a hypothetical scenario, or writing a book or screenplay, you can configure it in such a way that taking violent steps to defend yourself is feasible. But in real time, it is often much more hopeless than that. Read Frederick Douglass for a sense of that kind of helplessness—and he was in Maryland. Now move it hundreds of miles further south. I believe that such slave uprisings would be, if unsuccessful, a mere gesture, and if successful, almost certainly a bloodbath. I believe that a more prudent way to deal with it would be through an escape, running away. Moreover, it is an approach that Scripture defends. “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you” (Deut. 23:15, ESV).
On that Drive-By Shot at Recorders I Took:
I don’t know the context here, and I imagine that causes it to make a lot more sense, but as it stands, this passage bewilders me. I’ll bet there’s some pretty peppy recorder music out there from the early modern period, and I’d further wager that some people could find that pretty motivating. While I get what I think is the underlying point that some things are more appropriate to some contexts than others, I think this a very odd example. Does something have to be loud with a lot of bass in order to be energizing? That cuts out pretty much everything before Beethoven as being good background music for an active life, and do we really want to do that?
Jane, I take your point. I had a particular kind of recorder music in mind (suitable for the wine and cheese deal). But what recorder music couldn’t be spiced up a bit with a driving bass line?
When Repentance is in Fashion?
This question isn’t related to a specific post but instead to a theme you hit on often. In things like the #metoo movement and racial reconciliation, you have explained that it is wrong for the church to take her cues from whatever the world is currently concerned about. We can’t be “led around like a dog on a chain” as one of your commenters put it. But is it ever possible for Christians, Christian ministries, Biblical churches, etc. to see a trend in the world, see also that they themselves have been failing in that area, and genuinely repent of it? How do you discern if you are being played by the world or if you are genuinely convicted of your failures? Thank you so much for your clarity and faithfulness to the Word in these issues.
Lauren, yes, I do think that is possible in principle. But given the way people are, and the way the devil works, I do think it unlikely. At the same time, when such a situation arises, I do think we need to go back to the law and the testimony. How sound a biblical case can be made for whatever it is? Too often these fad repentances are awfully thin on the exegesis. They are like a junior high science fair project about stars that then has to find, at the last minute, a verse with stars in it to put on the poster board.
Cordial objections to Calvinism 4.0:
Hi Pastor Wilson, I’m a college student who grew up in the reformed church and currently a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. Focusing just on the subject of soteriology, here are a few problems I have with the Calvinist view. Yes we are dead in our sins, but the key questions seems to me, how we are brought to life? As I see it God offers all a chance to be brought to life and raised up (1 Timothy 2:4 “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”), but many would rather stay in their tombs. The notion of irresistible grace I find unreasonable. It essentially requires the God force his grace down our throats. That is not love. As Jesus makes clear in Luke 10:27, salvation is about loving God. It makes no sense to talk about love without a genuinely free choice, and a choice cannot be a genuine free choice unless there are at least two attainable options. In the Calvinist view, the only option for the unsaved is a rejection of God. If God hauls us in whether we like it or not, that is also a clear violation of freedom. As I see it, we are all drowning in the sea of our sins and receive a life vest on a rope from God. Some will cling onto it for dear life and be saved, others will say, “no thanks, the water is just fine.” There are also many verses I see as irreconcilable with a reformed view of salvation—to name just a couple: Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”—we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts, but we at least have to freely choose to open the door for Christ to come in and save us. I see this verse as irreconcilable with your view that God hauls us in regardless of the disposition of our will towards him. In Matthew 24:13 Jesus says: “but the one who preserves to the end will be saved.” This statement makes no sense unless there is a real possibility of a person being saved or not be saved, the view of predetermination of salvation. I know you know a hell of a lot more about this than I do, so I’m not trying to enter into a debate, just get your perspective. I’m no exegete, so I must rely on the authority of interpretation. As I line up the list of passages that could be used for and against a Calvinist soteriology, there are ones that are difficult to reconcile with both sides. But in in the end, I think you can only holistically read the Bible if you view salvation as a result of both God’s salvific undeserved grace and man’s independent choice to turn away from sin and towards Christ. The fact that Luther tried to get the book of James thrown out of the Bible is a true indicator of how fatally problematic it is for sola fide. I do not see how a purely grace-based theory can explain the passages that describe the need for our works and cooperation with God for salvation, whereas passages on predestination can be explained in the context of a synchronistic understanding of salvation. I know we are not going to change each other’s mind, but would appreciate your response to such objections. I’m sure in matters doctrinal, moral, and political we agree on legions more than we would disagree on, and am sorry to have focused so much on the latter. Thanks for your time, and your work for the kingdom. Regards,
David, thanks. Let me touch briefly on some of your key objections. First, in the way you have defined love as dependent on a genuine set of alternatives, you have made it impossible for God to love. He cannot be tempted. So is He not a moral agent? Does He not love? And I don’t see the irresistible nature of grace as a problem either. My physical life was given to me as a sheer gift. I was born without being consulted at all. One could say that it was an irresistible gift. If that way with birth, why not the new birth? And the door in Rev. 3:20 is the door of a church, not the door of our hearts.
Buried This Question at the Bottom
Pastor Wilson—I have traveled almost exactly the same path you have on the political rise of Donald Trump (I supported Ted Cruz, I didn’t trust or vote for Trump, etc.), and found your podcast a couple of months back helpful in discerning the path forward. I’ve come to my conclusion: God seems to have brought us a man in Donald Trump to help lead the fight against the relativistic, idol-worshiping culture we live in. And in the words of the Pharisee Gamaliel, I don’t want to be “found opposing God” (Acts 5:39). So unless some radical change occurs in the direction of the Trump administration and his fight against the Administrative State, I will vote—Lord willing—for Donald J. Trump for president of the United States in 2020. So where are you on this these days?
Bill, thanks for the pointed question. As you note, I am more interested in seeing what God is doing with Trump than in trying to figure out what Trump is doing. And because I don’t think Trump has an internal worldview gyroscope to guide him, I am going to wait until after the midterms before I start working on this question in earnest. But I will work on it, and I would be doing my thinking out loud here at Mablog.